Making The Firewall More Manageable In Windows 7

We all know that Windows 7 comes with its own Firewall tool, but very few people makes good use of it to protect themselves. It is not the fault of the users. This is mainly because the Firewall tool is hidden deep in the control panel and the minimal and confusing interface make setting it up a difficult task for the average user. If you are looking for a simpler solution to setup your Firewall, TinyWall could be the one you are looking for.

TinyWall is a tiny application that uses Windows Firewall’s Application Programming Interface (API) to provide a comprehensive “tiny” outpost on your computer’s network security that packs a huge punch.

Since the program uses Windows Firewall, it kind of “cheats” in the sense that it doesn’t have its own filter driver like other firewalls do. It piggy-backs on Windows’ own infrastructure and takes command of it. This isn’t necessarily bad, and it even makes the installation process simpler for that reason. You also get the assurance that you’re not taking any real risk in installing it, as it cannot blue-screen your computer for a faulty NDIS driver or cause any of those other disasters that firewalls commonly cause.

As soon as the program is installed, you get no special interface or anything fancy. You just get the TinyWall icon on your taskbar and that’s pretty much the end of the story. When you click that icon, you get a series of configuration options:

tinywall-options

Clicking “Manage” will take you to a comprehensive configuration panel where you can state exceptions for your firewall by either selecting processes or services that you’re currently running. You can also browse for files if you don’t have anything running at this moment. If you really don’t know what to configure in your firewall, your best bet is to hover the mouse over “Change mode” and select “Autolearn.” This particular option gives TinyWall a free hand to automatically determine whether a program that accesses the Internet has malicious intentions or not. It also lets TinyWall determine whether it should block or welcome certain incoming packets. You’ll find this feature especially useful if you’re a newbie.

One of my favorite features is the “Show connections” screen:

tinywall-connections

This is a lot faster than typing “netstat” on the command line! All I had to do was click the TinyWall icon and then click “Show connections,” and bam! You can see the connections to my web server (httpd) and the two OR connections I’m holding via AdvOR. This application is much more useful than “netstat” for diagnosing your connection. However, I’m rather disappointed in the fact that it doesn’t really refresh the connection view. I have to manually click “Show active connections” twice to refresh. This doesn’t really help me with determining whether everyone’s making it to my website, for example.

Aside from that minor setback, TinyWall is an amazing application that helps beginners gain more control over their network security without having to see all those annoying “Allow/Block” pop-ups that appear with Windows Firewall. Its “Autolearn” capability looks promising, although I haven’t had a chance to test it extensively.

I’d like to hear what you think about this program after testing it. Has anyone had good or bad times with it? Post to our readers in the comments section below!

TinyWall.